Main shopping street in Akureyri, the largest town in northern Iceland.

Driving the Ring Road Around Iceland


Ð/ð is voiced,
as in this;
Þ/þ is unvoiced,
as in thick.

I had just crossed the northern highlands, passing through only one small town at Mývatn lake between Egilsstaðir and Akureyri. Now I was in Iceland's "Northern Capital" for four nights.

Akureyri has a population of 18,191, making it the largest town outside the Capital Region.

Around Akureyri

Akureyri has a surprisingly warm climate for its latitude, 65°41'N. Gardens, including the municipal botanical garden, are simply outdoors, not contained in greenhouses.

Garden in Akureyri.
Central Akureyri.

Akureyrarkirkja or the Church of Akureyri was built in 1940.

Akureyrarkirkja in Akureyri.
Akureyrarkirkja in Akureyri.

Akureyrarkirkja was unfortunately closed every time I checked. It has a 3200-pipe organ and notable artworks.

Akureyrarkirkja in Akureyri.

The Akureyri Art Museum was proposed in 1960, and became reality in 1993. It's in a building that from 1937 through 1980 was a dairy plant operated by Mjólkursamlag KEA.

Akureyri Art Museum.

The building was constructed in a very Bauhaus style, as dairy plants go.

Bauhaus style Akureyri Art Museum.

I went down to the waterfront to look south, up the fjord. The airport is that direction, on the south edge of town along the west shore of the fjord. With one 2,400 meter runway it's an international airport. Norlandair flies to Nerlerit Inaat in the Sermersooq municipality in eastern Greenland, and Transavia operates seasonal charter flights to Amsterdam.

Looking south up the fjord in Akureyri.

And, across the fjord.

Looking across the fjord in Akureyri.

I encountered two more stoplights in Akureyri.

Stoplights #2 and #3 in Akureyri.

After the movie theater in Seyðisfjörður, I was now in my second Icelandic town with a movie theater. There will be more as I continue toward the west.

Nyja Bio movie theater in Akureyri.

I wandered back through the central square of Akureyri.

Central square in Akureyri.

Akureyri Disease was first observed in a cluster of 488 cases at a local boarding school over a period of three months during the winter of 1948–1949. It was initially diagnosed as poliomyelitis.

Central square in Akureyri.
'The Delusions of Crowds: Why People Go Mad in Groups', William J. Bernstein
Amazon 0802157092

Is now believed to have been hysterical poliomyelitis, an example of mass delusion.

Main shopping street in Akureyri.
Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Similar outbreaks were later observed in Louisville, Kentucky, and at Lackland Air Force Base in the 1970s.

Main shopping street in Akureyri.

The Akureyri Backpackers happy hour runs 1600-1800. Then the Einstök Brewer's Lounge opens, with their happy hour running 1800-2000.

Einstök Brewer's Lounge in Akureyri.
Einstök Brewer's Lounge in Akureyri.

A Snowy Day in Akureyri

It had started snowing by 1500, soon after sunset, on my first full day in Akureyri.

1: For readers in the U.S.A. and Myanmar, the last two countries in the world still unable to use the metric system, that's 0.32808399 yards or 0.26246765 English ells.

It snowed all that evening, through the night, and into the next day. By 1100 the next morning, another 30 cm of snow had fallen.1

The only roads shown on as green, "Easily passable", were inside tunnels. Red is "Impassable/Closed", including part of Road 84 which I had taken around the toll tunnel and many other nearby roads. Pink is "Difficult driving". White means it's covered with snow, which included Highway 1 both directions from Akureyri, and other roads north and south. Orange is "Spots of ice", light blue is "Slippery", and dark blue is "Extremely slippery". The crossed arrows mean "Blowing snow". Snowflakes alone or above triangles indicate falling snow.

Road conditions shown on

Who could have imagined such conditions occurring in northern Iceland during the winter?

Buildings along Hafnarstræti in Akureyri.
Buildings along Hafnarstræti in Akureyri.

My guesthouse was toasty and warm, with its geothermal heat and hot water supply.

600 Guesthouse in Akureyri.

Akureyri was settled in the 9th century by Helgi Eyvindarson, called "Magri" or "The Slim". Danish merchants camped here in the 1600s because of its great harbor, but they returned to Denmark over the winters. Permanent settlement started in 1778.

Buildings along Hafnarstræti in Akureyri.

Kaupfélag Eyfirðinga, known by the abbreviation KEA, was founded in 1886 as a trade association. It was once the largest employer in northern Iceland. It seems to have dominated Akureyri.

Buildings along Hafnarstræti in Akureyri.

The 600 Guesthouse where I was staying once housed KEA's construction department. The art museum is in a building that once was a KEA dairy. I kept seeing former KEA facilities in Akureyri. Some of these buildings along Hafnarstræti had metal placards explaining their historical significance, and some of them formerly housed KEA operations.

Buildings along Hafnarstræti in Akureyri.

The Einstök Brewer's Lounge is in the lower level of this building, behind the red door and wall. It connects inside to the restaurant one floor higher in the yellow-brown section. All of this was another KEA facility.

Bauhaus dairy-processing KEA building in Akureyri.

Smjörlíkisgerð KEA made margarine in the yellow-brown section.

Bauhaus dairy-processing KEA building in Akureyri, it once housed Smjörlíkisgerð KEA which made margarine.

Efnagerðin Flóra og Pylsugerð KEA made sausages in the white and red section.

Bauhaus dairy-processing KEA building in Akureyri, it once housed Efnagerðin Flóra og Pylsugerð KEA which made sausages.

The large book store on the main shopping street has "KEA" repeated along the tops of its window frames.

Large book store in Akureyri.

The nice hotel across the street is the Hotel KEA.

Hotel KEA in Akureyri.

Akyreyri was home to one of three air bases used by the Norwegian-British No. 330 Squadron RNoAF during World War II. It few anti-submarine missions to protect Allied convoys from the U.S. to the U.K. or the Russian port of Murmansk. It flew Northrup N-3PB bombers from Reykjavík, Akureyri, and Reyðarfjörður, called Budareyri at the time. It also flew PBY Catalina flying boats out of Akureyri.

The N-3PBs carried out eight attacks on German U-boats, but none were sunk. In March 1943 they were moved east to Oban in western Scotland.

The snow had diminished to flurries, so the serious snow clearing began.

Tractor clearing snow in Akureyri.

I had read about, and then forgotten about, the national craze for hotdogs. Rick Steves and Lonely Planet had both described it.

Pylsuvagniin hotdog stand in Akureyri.

But there's no sign of it in the small towns and villages where I had been so far.

Pylsuvagniin hotdog stand in Akureyri.

There's a second movie theater in Akureyri!

BorgarBíóo in Akureyri.

The national broadcaster RÚV has a studio here.

RÚV radio studio in Akureyri.

One More Day in Akureyri

In the morning I saw that construction had resumed on the site visible throught my window. One of the workers was using the municipal hot water supply to melt snow around reinforcing rods where concrete would be poured.

Construction workers removing snow with steam in Akureyri.
Construction workers removing snow with steam in Akureyri.

I wished that I had a hot water hose with an unlimited supply, as my car was still sleeping beneath a blanket of snow.

My car buried in snow in Akureyri.

I started knocking some of the snow away by hand. But what to do, I needed to contact the guesthouse owners to see if they had a snow shovel that I could use.

My car buried in snow in Akureyri.

One of the construction workers saw what I was doing, and loaned me a snow shovel!

In close to an hour of shoveling I had my car and its path forward excavated. Now, like Oðinn's eight-legged horse Sleipnir, it would be ready to gallop away the following morning!

My car excavated from the snow in Akureyri.
in November

I celebrated with a buffet lunch at the local Thai restaurant. This reminded me of being in Fairbanks, Alaska during cold and snowy weather. During the Vietnam war, a U.S. serviceman married a Thai woman and later brought her to either the U.S. Army's Fort Wainwright or the adjoining Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks. Members of her family followed, and they established multiple Thai restaurants in the Fairbanks area.

Thai lunch in Akureyri.

Onward to Siglufjörður

Next: On to Siglufjörður

My next overnight stop would be the northernmmost one of the trip, in Siglufjörður at 66° 9' 7" N.